Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very small, fragmented and declining range. Although its numbers fluctuate naturally, its available habitat is decreasing as a result of logging, small-scale agriculture and uncontrolled fires. It therefore qualifies as Endangered.
The population is estimated to number 600-3,375 individuals, roughly equating to 400-2,300 mature individuals.
There are no new data on population trends; however, the species is suspected to be declining at a slow rate, owing to agricultural encroachment into its habitat.
Loxia megaplaga occurs primarily in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it was not recorded from 1930-1970 (Dod 1978, Clement et al. 1993). Several birds were found in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica in the early 1970s, but there have been no subsequent records (Dod 1978). In Haiti, it is known from the Massifs de la Selle (Bond 1979) and de la Hotte (Woods and Ottenwalder 1986, Raffaele et al. 1998, Dávalos and Brooks 2001), including the Macaya Biosphere Reserve where small flocks were recorded in 2004 (Rimmer et al 2004). In the Dominican Republic, it occurs mostly in the Sierra de Baoruco, with occasional records from the Cordillera Central (Smith 1997). Numbers presumably declined between the mid-1920s and mid-1960s in response to habitat loss, but by 1978 the species was thought to be recovering (Woods and Ottenwalder 1986). The population apparently fluctuates depending on food availability (Benkman 1994, Latta et al. 2000), but was estimated as c.3,375 individuals following surveys in the Sierra de Baoruco between 1996-1999 (Latta et al. 2000).
It is restricted to pine Pinus occidentalis forests, mostly at high elevations, and feeds exclusively on pine-seeds (Woods and Ottenwalder 1986). There is a large pine-cone crop about every three years, but crops in other years are small or fail altogether (Benkman 1994). Fluctuations in pine-cone abundance are not synchronous, and birds are nomadic in response to food availability, the species has been recorded as low as 540 m and as high as 2,600 (Benkman 1994, Latta et al. 2006). It breeds between January and April, with the timing probably depending on the cone crop (Latta et al. 2000, Latta et al. 2002). The nest is usually built high up in the branches of pine trees (Bond 1979, Latta et al. 2000).
Logging has been reduced since the mid-1960s, but clearance for small-scale agriculture continues to fragment remaining habitat (Dod 1978, Bond 1979, Woods and Ottenwalder 1986, Ottenwalder 1992b). This presumably isolates populations, making them susceptible to local pine-cone failures (Benkman 1994). Habitat loss at the Sierra de Baoruco has recently accelerated owing to clearance for commercial-scale agriculture (S. Latta in litt. 2016). Parasitism by Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis may be a problem (Raffaele et al. 1998), but this seems unlikely since M. bonariensis is primarily a coastal species in the Sierra de Baoruco (Latta et al. 2000). The principal threat may now be uncontrolled stand replacement fires, which burn more of the remaining pine habitat than can be replaced through regeneration (Latta et al. 2000).
Conservation Actions Underway
The vast majority of the population is in Sierra de Baoruco National Park, but there is no active protection and clearance for agriculture is widespread, especially in the border region (Clement et al. 1993, Latta et al. 2000). It has also been found in Armando Bermudez National Park in the Cordillera Central (D. C. Wege pers. obs. 1999) and Macaya Biosphere Reserve (Rimmer et al 2004). A recovery plan was published in 1992 (Ottenwalder 1992b).
15 cm. Medium-sized finch with distinctive crossed mandibles and two white wing-bars. Male pale red with black wings. Female dull olive with blackish wings, yellowish rump and breast, and fine dark streaking on breast. Voice High, emphatic chu-chu-chu-chu call. Also soft warble. Hints Best located by calls of small foraging groups. Regularly visits water to drink.
Text account compilers
Isherwood, I., Mahood, S., Pople, R., Sharpe, C J, Wege, D. & Wheatley, H.
BirdLife International (2017) Species factsheet: Loxia megaplaga. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 16/12/2017. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2017) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 16/12/2017.